Carmen Van Kerckhove came up with the term in 2007. She said it is most often ironic racism. Liberal-identifying whites holding “kill whitie” parties to kill the whiteness inside, wearing blackface, defending use of epithets because they totally aren’t racist. These are legitimate examples, but they are also the most obvious.
It’s easy for us white progressive hipster folk to distance ourselves from things like this. You and me, we are progressive! You voted for Obama, you aspire to live in Biggie’s old neighborhood, you listen to Mos Def and you protest and you did a rockabilly cover of “Anaconda.” Yeah, you might do something kinda racist from time to time, but it’s not like you’re doing messed up stuff all the time. You spend a lot of time learning about systemic racism, feminism, classism, all those other isms that oppress some and benefit others. You’re able to see when injustice is at work. More importantly, you are willing to speak out when something isn’t right.
It is important to take action. The world needs people who are able and willing to do so. Action is admirable. Protesting is good. In the end, though, it is not indicative of what you are doing on the day to day to make the world a better place.
Change will never come if you don’t know the history. Change will never come if you are not implicating yourself as a source of trouble. It is easy to see how the man is problematic, it is easy to see how your family and friends and peers are messing up. It is much more difficult to see how you are doing and thinking messed up things. How you are enabling.
Your role as a protester does not mean you are automatically not at fault. Your membership in political/social justice groups does not mean you are doing all the work you possibly can. It does not mean you are doing the work you should be doing to create the change you want to see.
But you’re doing more than your friends and peers who don’t protest, don’t come to meetings, don’t show support, right? To a degree, yeah. But really?
Hipster racism is not just doing messed up things intentionally or ironically. It is also doing messed up things when you don’t know that you are, or even worse, when you have been told it’s messed up but you don’t stop.
Hipster racism is blindly embracing symbols, styles, phrases, practices without questioning their origins and using them for your own ends.
Hipster racism is looking for people of color to back up your cause and reassure you you’re doing the right thing. Hipster racism is not prioritizing seeing how you are an oppressor. Hipster racism is listening only to black and brown people who do not make you feel bad or make you question your stance.
Hipster racism is crying SOLIDARITY while you throw up the Black Power fist at every rally, every protest, every photo opportunity.
Hipster racism is screaming FUCK THE POLICE and spilling your guts about how black people dying makes you feel while you take time away from focusing on black experiences, feelings, opinions.
Hipster racism is white feminists declaring ALL OPPRESSION IS LINKED and waffling when asked to think about how we oppress and silence people of color and push women of color to the side in all our discussions about how we have it so hard.
Hipster racism is telling yourself you care way more than those black and brown people (except for the few you count as friends) and that’s why they don’t show up to your meetings and your protests.
Hipster racism is wanting to be oppressed so bad you’re willing to embrace class struggle or sexism as stand-alones and see race as a secondary cause.
Hipster racism is vehemently attacking McDavis and making memes having to do with his blackness. It is subjecting him to way more ridicule and disrespect than the board of trustees. It is understandable to be upset. It is good to question the system. It is not cool to constantly use him as an outlet to vent all your white anger.
Hipster racism is acting like you’re down for the cause but feeling excluded when there is a movement or space where you are not welcome.
Hipster racism is white feelings and white opinions.
Hipster racism is seeing yourself as a victim first.
Hipster racism is excusing your own racism and sexism.
Hipster racism is problematizing everyone but yourself.
Hipster racism is co-opting the struggle for your own means.
Hipster racism is doing all of this and stopping when you get your job and your significant other and your house and your car and get comfortable.
If you really care, if you really want to make a difference … read. Read what is honest (what makes you uncomfortable and doesn’t let you off the hook because you’re a good white person). Listen. Listen again. Listen more. Learn. Make changes to yourself. Pick apart your ideologies. Call people out. Be honest with yourself. Do not let yourself off the hook. And stop looking for excuses to put your damn fist in the air.